By Amelia Woolford, Project Development Officer.
2017 gets off to a flying start on our little patch of Leicestershire. The Allerton Project has had plenty on its plate both on the farm and at many events.
At this time of year, it’s a great opportunity to do some agri-environment work on the farm. We started off in early January with some hedge-cutting, it’s the perfect time to give them a trim and tidy up after the birds have fed on all the available berries.
We’ve also been desilting some ponds with a 13-tonne digger for better drainage and improving habitats for newts! Some soft wheat grown on the farm has been collected to supply Kellogg’s and the farm has also welcomed some new woolly arrivals, with 14 Leicestershire Longwool lambs so far.
An area of soil by the biobed has been dug out in readiness for some concrete for our Heliosec. This is a sprayer handling area which is approved for use in the UK and developed by our partner Syngenta. It will be installed adjacent to the biobed to work alongside it; however, they can stand alone for efficiently processing on-farm waste products.
We’ve also seen the end of the shooting season for this year, with some very mild weather over the winter. All in all, a fantastic shooting year, with some high-flying birds and a beaters' day on 1st February, many thanks to our keeper, Matt.
Our research team have been busy in the field collecting a plethora of data for our SIP project. This covers a range of topics within our cover crop fields pre-destruction, such as; earthworm abundance, water infiltration, VESS, soil chemical composition, nematode assessment and a botanical composition looking at sown species versus weed species.
Farmer Phil attended the Oxford Farming Conference back in January, to hear a lively discussion between Minette Batters, Guy Poskitt, Helen Ghosh and George Monbiot, who all agreed that the retail market needs to properly reward farmers for the food they produce.
However, opinions differed on landscape management, it seemed beauty, trees and water were on one side of the debate and sustainable food production was on the other. Phil also attended the Welland Valley benchmarking meeting, looking into the figures that go towards gross and net margin. As well as soil and crop research for the future through SoilCare and how this can be developed into agri-environment work in the future. However, most importantly this research agenda is to be steered by the farmers themselves.
Jim Egan, our head of training and development, hopped over the channel for a Project Valarie meeting. This EU funded research project is developing a knowledge exchange platform that is being built for farmers across Europe to help them access and understand EU funded agricultural research.
Jim has also been busy up North in Cumbria and Scotland talking to 102 First Milk dairy farmers! This cluster provides UK milk for Nestle, who have partnered with the Allerton Project in an exciting, innovative project to properly reward farmers directly through their producer contracts for delivering appropriate and quality agri-environment work.
We’ve also seen the Big Farmland Bird Count come to fruition for its fourth year. More on this soon…
Although we’re only just getting started, we’re also looking forward to welcoming 50 Waitrose dairy farmers on part of their study tour this week and yet more to come on the farm over the coming months with spraying, spring drilling, training programmes and school visits.
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